Taking on Assault Weapons Could Be a Political Winner for Obama
The horrific and deadly rampage in Colorado has renewed public interest in the merits of gun control, though neither presidential campaign has thus far made an issue of it. Part of the reason is that they don’t want to be perceived as politicizing a true tragedy. But it’s also undeniable that gun control is an especially risky issue. There is, however, an opportunity for Obama to frame the issue in a manner that reduces the risk of alienating conservatives by focusing on assault weapons.
According to a recent Pew Research survey, a plurality of Americans believes it is more important to protect the rights of gun owners than control gun ownership by a narrow 49 to 45 margin. While certain demographic groups—and especially women—are more inclined to favor restrictions on firearms, support for gun control does not fall along lines especially favorable to the President.
Just 37 percent of white voters support additional gun control measures, while 57 percent oppose. That’s a slightly smaller share of the white vote than Obama holds in most polls, so Obama probably wouldn’t gain much by dividing the electorate along gun control-lines, especially a disproportionate share of undecided voters are whites without a college degree —the group least supportive of gun control. If Obama’s route to victory depended on additional gains among suburban women, Chicago might take a chance on gun control. But the President has maximized his support among suburban women and he already possesses a toolbox of wedge issues to push social moderates—like the Planned Parenthood advertisements airing in Washington.